Why Is My Aloe Plant Browning and Turning Mushy?

Aloe Vera, known as the “Plant of Immortality,” has been cultivated and cherished for centuries worldwide. Despite its resilient reputation, Aloe Vera can only withstand so much before it signals distress. The plant communicates its plight through brown and mushy leaves, transforming from fleshy and firm to a gloopy mess.

Over the years, humans have inadvertently pushed their aloe plants to the brink of decline. While ensuring essential elements like light, water, nutrients, and temperature are met, we often go overboard. This article explores the most common reasons why your Aloe Vera is turning brown and mushy and provides insights on how to correct and prevent this decline.

Overwatering

Overwatering is the foremost culprit when it comes to succulent and houseplant mortality, particularly for Aloe Vera. Many times, overwatering occurs due to the assumption that watering is a straightforward task. Neglecting to consider the plant’s needs can lead to a false sense of dryness, as the surface soil may appear arid while the deeper layers remain saturated. This excess water accumulation at the root level leads to root rot, causing the leaves to become soggy and slimy to the touch. Aloe plants prefer a drier soil, so it’s best to let the soil dry out before watering again.

Gardener watering succulent plants
Image: Gardener watering succulent plants in pot outdoors

Underwatering

Contrary to popular belief, desert and succulent plants like Aloe Vera do require regular watering. Although they have the ability to store water in their leaves, indoor Aloe plants should never reach a state of underwatering. In some instances, neglectful gardeners may realize it has been weeks since their last watering. Underwatered Aloe plants exhibit pale yellow to tan leaves, brown spotting, and dry leaf edges and tips.

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Underwatered plant in terra cotta pot
Image: Underwatered plant in terra cotta pot

Sudden Environmental Changes

Imagine participating in a frigid winter “Polar Bear Plunge” event, transitioning from warm robes to a bathing suit and diving into icy waters. The shock and change in environment would jolt your system. Aloe plants experience a similar shock when abruptly moved from indoor comfort to the scorching summer sun. This sudden shift in temperature and light intensity can cause leaf “sunburn” and turn them brown, red, or gray. To prevent this, Aloe plants need a gradual acclimation period of 7-10 days, incrementally increasing sunlight exposure.

Aloe plant relocated outdoors
Image: Aloe plant relocated outdoors

Low Temperatures

Although desert nights can be cold, Aloe Vera struggles when exposed to temperatures consistently below 50℉. Indoor Aloe plants can be susceptible to cold air from windows or air conditioning vents. Trapped between curtains and windows, or touching the windowpane directly, Aloe plants may suffer tissue damage. To remedy this, ensure proper insulation around windows and relocate the plant away from air conditioning vents.

Succulent plant outdoors with snow on leaves
Image: Succulent plant outdoors with snow on leaves

Excessive Light

Proper acclimation to new environments is crucial for plants. Aloe Vera, a desert-dweller, thrives under filtered sunlight, protected by larger cacti or grassy patches. Exposing Aloe plants unprepared to intense sunlight can damage their tissues. Overexposure manifests as brown, red, or gray leaves. Gradually introducing Aloe plants to outdoor light over 7-10 days can prevent leaf discoloration.

Plant with too much sun sitting outdoors
Image: Plant with too much sun sitting outdoors

Insufficient Light

Insufficient sunlight can also harm Aloe Vera, leading to leaf discoloration and weak plant structures. Aloes grown in low light conditions often retain excess water, causing stems to turn mushy and collapse. Aloe Vera requires at least 6 hours of sunlight daily, which can be provided by east or west-facing windows. If only southern exposure is available, ensure the light is filtered before reaching the plant.

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Succulent plant with too little sunlight sitting indoors
Image: Succulent plant with too little sunlight sitting indoors

Disease

Aloe Vera is susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections. Fungal ailments like aloe rust and anthracnose thrive in cool temperatures and high humidity — conditions not favored by Aloe Vera. To prevent such diseases, maintain warm temperatures and low humidity. Rust appears as pale yellow spots on leaves, eventually turning brown with orange spores on the underside. Anthracnose causes water-soaked circular spots with brown centers, leading to larger areas of dead tissue. Bacterial soft rot, caused by overwatering, results in watery, slimy leaves that collapse.

Diseased plant sitting outdoors in terra cotta pot
Image: Diseased plant sitting outdoors in terra cotta pot

Poor Drainage

Aloe Vera requires a well-draining potting mix composed of organic and inorganic matter. A commercially available cacti and succulent mix or a homemade blend suffices, with ⅓ organic matter and ⅔ inorganic matter. Inorganic components, such as pumice or perlite, provide essential pore space in the soil. In the absence of adequate drainage, potting mix compaction occurs, depriving plant roots of necessary oxygen for survival.

Succulent plant sitting in a pot without enough drainage
Image: Succulent plant sitting in a pot without enough drainage

Excessive Fertilizer

Aloe Vera does not require additional fertilizer as it thrives in nutrient-poor conditions. If planted in a cacti and succulent mix, the organic matter breaking down provides sufficient nutrition. Applying too much fertilizer can damage plant tissues due to salt accumulation. Salts in fertilizers have the potential to burn plants, causing root and leaf damage. In case fertilization is desired, ensure the soil is wet before application to minimize the risk of root burn.

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Gardener holds a spoon with soil and fertilizer
Image: Gardener holds a spoon with soil and fertilizer

Transplant Shock

Repotting or transferring plants without considering their preferences can result in transplant shock. Aloe plants exhibit leaf discoloration and mushiness when subjected to this stress. To minimize transplant shock, disturb the roots minimally, using sanitized tools to remove only dead or damaged roots. Use a pot one size larger than the previous container, filled with a cacti and succulent potting mix. Water thoroughly and return the plant to its original location.

Plant recently repotted
Image: Plant recently repotted

Frost Damage

Bringing outdoor plants inside before temperatures plummet is vital. Aloe Vera struggles in temperatures below 50℉, resulting in soft and mushy leaves resembling frost-damaged produce. Although frost-damaged plants can often recover, it is crucial to protect plants from exposure to cold air whether indoors or outdoors.

Succulent plant outdoors with frost on leaves
Image: Succulent plant outdoors with frost on leaves

By understanding and addressing the various factors that contribute to browning and mushiness in Aloe Vera, you can ensure the health and prosperity of your beloved plant. With proper care and consideration, your Aloe Vera can thrive and bring beauty to your indoor space. For more information, visit Ames Farm Center.